The New-York Historical Society commemorates the sesquicentennial of
the Emancipation Proclamation with a display of rare documents from the
Gilder Lehrman Collection, including an important 1864 printing of the
Emancipation Proclamation and a congressional copy of the Thirteenth
Amendment resolution, both bearing the signature of Abraham Lincoln.
While the Emancipation Proclamation stands as the most important
accomplishment of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Lincoln realized as the
Civil War raged on that that the issue of slavery could only be settled
permanently by changing the Constitution itself. By the end of 1864, the
Senate had approved the abolition amendment, although it was still two
votes short of the two-thirds necessary for passage in the House of
Representatives. At Lincoln’s urging, the amendment was re-introduced,
and finally passed on January 31, 1865. Lincoln, felled by an assassin’s
bullet on April 15, 1865, did not live to see the amendment become law.
When it finally was ratified eight months later, the Thirteenth
Amendment freed nearly one million slaves still held in bondage in the
states not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation.